California areas scarred by wildfires now hit by flash flooding
Flash flood water is blackened by ash and debris from fires in Southern California. (AP: Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register)
Flash flooding has hit a wildfire-scarred area of Northern California, with water rescue teams deployed to help people stranded in vehicles, officials have said.
- Downpours hit Paradise, an area devastated in recent fires
- 125 millimetres of rain fell in some areas in an hour
- Authorities receive reports of downed trees and power lines
The Butte County Sheriff’s Department ordered evacuations but could not say how many people were affected.
People were being taken to a church in Chico after a downpour in the Paradise area.
Rick Carhart, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said there were also reports of flash flooding in areas that were not burned.
Mr Carhart said it was not clear how many people were trapped, but authorities received reports of flooding on roads and of downed trees and power poles.
“The roots and the bottoms of the utilities poles are just kind of swimming,” he said.
“It rained really hard in a short amount of time and this whole thing came up really quickly.”
The storm brought about 125 millimetres of rain in an hour, toppling trees and trapping motorists in flooded roads downstream, said National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Shoemaker.
“This is heavy rain in a short period of time and that’s the worst thing that can happen in the burn scar,” he said.
Butte County Sheriff’s Sergeant Brad Meyer told local television stations in Chico that about a dozen homes were affected and rafts were being used to rescue people from water.
“It is serious. The water is coming up so we want to make sure we get everybody out that we can,” Sergeant Meyer said.
In Southern California, mandatory evacuations were ordered for a small section of the city of Lake Elsinore beneath a burn zone.
Dramatic body cam vision shows people fleeing
Paradise, a town of 27,000 people, has been under mandatory evacuation orders for nearly three weeks since a wildfire killed at least 88 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
Residents could begin returning early next week, but only if the storm doesn’t hinder efforts to clear roads and restore power, Sheriff Kory Honea said.
The latest update from authorities put the Camp Fire death toll at 88 with another 196 people missing.
Dramatic images of the fires continue to emerge, with the Butte County Sheriff Department releasing body camera vision from an officer as he tries to help people evacuate at the height of the emergency.
The Camp Fire, which began on November 8, destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and burned nearly 153,000 acres, an area five times the size of San Francisco, in and around Paradise.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said he was optimistic that some of the 196 people listed as missing could still be alive.
“That said, as we move into repopulating these areas and allowing people to go into the areas, it is possible that some will find bones or bone fragments,” he told reporters, adding that authorities had ended their search for victims.